Women who give everything to other people and nothing to themselves share a common problem. When they give their all to their partner, their parents, their children, their career or their boss, they fail to look after themselves and they fail to take care of their health.

They keep on going and going, pushing and pushing, without a break and never stopping. So when it comes to taking some time off, taking a trip away, the very thought of planning a proper holiday can feel overwhelming and too stressful to think about.

Perhaps you know these women– the women who never take time for themselves and live on adrenaline – maybe you are one of them. You never take time for you and you always go the extra mile for your boss, your best friend or the job you’re working on.

When you finally get around to booking some time away, you look forward to it for weeks and count down the days until you leave. Then as soon as you stop, your suitcase is unpacked – it’s the first day of your holiday – disaster strikes and you get sick!

Think back to when you were last unwell. Did it come after a period of working too hard, not giving yourself enough time off to recharge your batteries or ignoring the headaches and niggling back problems? And then just as you started your long awaited break, you were hit by a virus or your back became a serious problem.

If the answer is yes it could be that you are suffering with ‘Leisure Sickness’. Symptoms include migraines and headaches, muscular aches and pains, tiredness all the time, colds and flu– and they strike just when you finally take time away from work.

Though Leisure Sickness isn’t universally recognised, Dutch psychologists Ad Vingerhoets and Maaike van Huijgevoort coined the phrase and they explored the phenomena of sickness and symptoms manifesting when workaholics [most typically] finally stop and take a break. Vingerhoets and van Huijgevoort describe it as an “inability to transition from the work to the non-work environment, a high need for achievement and a high sense of responsibility.”

But even if Leisure Sickness doesn’t describe your experience exactly, there are a lot of women who feel overwhelmed and too stressed to think about anything else over and above all the things they’re already juggling.   You’ve probably heard the expression “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and it’s true. Many clients I see reach a point where they feel drained; they have nothing left to give, to themselves or anyone else. They’re running on empty, a bit like a car with a flat battery.

Women [more so than men I find] become used to walking the thin line on the edge of exhaustion; it becomes their norm. That is, until something happens that ordinarily wouldn’t be a problem. It’s often the small things – running late, getting a parking ticket, losing your keys – and you end up feeling way more emotional than you know is appropriate.

So what’s the secret of not getting to the point of burn-out, where even a holiday seems too stressful?

Let me ask you a question: What are you doing to minimise stress and look after yourself?

By the time you have the wakeup call of becoming ill, your body by then, will be under great pressure and the journey back to health will be harder than if you take time and make space every day to take care of yourself.

Of course, this is easier said than done and actually taking time for you might feel very alien!

I wrote a short ebook on handling stress which is free on the website. I’m writing an online course   on saying goodbye to Stress and Burnout, so look out for this in the next couple of months.

Remember, It’s not stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

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